June 13, 2008

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Remember that Father’s Day is not a second-rate holiday

Cynthia DewesMoms are so easy to impress on Mother’s Day or any day, for that matter.

Give them a bouquet of fresh flowers or a box of chocolates and a sentimental card with hearts and lace and stuff, and they will tell their girlfriends about it for months. They hope to be appreciated, and when they are, they are thrilled.

Dads, on the other hand, act like they are unaware that Father’s Day is on the calendar. They are just doing their appointed job so they don’t expect gifts. If they receive one, it’s often nothing they want. After all, how many decks of playing cards or shaving kits does a man need?

Father’s Day greeting cards are a problem for dads, too. They usually feature scenes of wild ducks in flight or sailboats at sea or things like tools and sports equipment. If your dad is an intellectual or a farmer or a politician, there are not many cards available to suit him. Tsk.

Actually, dads like to be remembered just as much as moms do, only they’re way cooler about it. The trick in pleasing them is to give some thought to the kind of dad you have, what he likes and what you like about him, and go from there. This involves actual love and appreciation.

Naturally, I believe that my dad was the best dad ever. He was laid back, tolerant, kind and generous. He suffered fools.

Where my mom would go ballistic over something, he would wait until the fireworks ended then make a calm judgment, usually a pretty accurate one. He had no wish to control his child, but only to love and support her.

Fathers generally are less interested in the logistics of child-rearing than mothers, at least in my experience. Modern dads may change diapers and cook spaghetti and read bedtime stories, unlike their own dads, but they still do it rather like amateurs who don’t feel natural in such environments.

Dads rarely care about dirt on the rug, dustballs in corners or greasy spills on the kitchen floor. They don’t mind if the dog and/or cat sleep in bed with the kids or beg food at the table. That may be one reason they are popular with their children.

A father’s discipline today is not the heavy-handed, stern method of Victorian times. In fact, dads are often unaware that discipline is needed until Mom says, “Are you going to let him/her get away with that?” and they’re stung into action. Disobedience to dad’s direct orders, however, elicits quick retaliation.

As I’m fond of saying, I believe that if we ourselves have a good father, it’s easier for us to trust and believe in the goodness of God the Father. Great dads reflect God’s generosity in showering us with wondrous things, and I’m not talking about material things here.

Good dads respect us, take us seriously and allow us to become the people we really are. They advise us when asked, teach from their experience and support us when we fail. Like God, they are always there for us.

The results of being a good father are usually revealed in his children. Stable, reasonably happy adults can thank their dads (and, of course, their moms) for helping to make them that way.

Let’s truly honor our fathers on this Father’s Day, if only because they gave us life.

And while we’re at it, we’ll be honoring God, who does the same.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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